Monday, September 16, 2013

Riley: Muncie Schools' Referendum Zigs and Zags

By Larry Riley in the Muncie Star-Press:

Months after what seemingly should have been meticulous planning and massaging of spreadsheet figures, Muncie Community Schools officials say that the tax hike they’re asking from Center Township voters won’t raise the money they originally calculated.

A 39.39-cent property tax rate — which requires a referendum vote because this increase would be outside the state’s property tax caps — first was projected to bring in more than $6 million in new money to a school system that spends between $75 milion and $110 million annually.

(The lower figure is what’s shown in legal advertising, the latter figure comes from annual reports available at the Indiana Department of Education, and comes closer to matching the amount calculated when multiplying the number of students times the per student cost.)

At last week’s school board meeting, members heard differently: after “consulting” between officials, “it was clear that the amount would not raise the money needed to fund everything on the list,” said Chief Financial Officer Mark Burkhart.

The “list” would have included the $3.3 million needed to keep busing kids to schools, which the board says will end if voters reject paying more, plus technology and facility upgrades of another $3 million.

The revised calculation suggests the tax hike will raise only the amount needed for busing, $3.3 million.

One has to worry about how math is taught in Muncie schools.

This year, the school’s Transportation Fund comes from a $0.2429 tax rate assessed on $1.56 billion worth of property, and the certified levy — or what should be raised if everyone pays their taxes — is $3,782,107.

The proposed tax hike is nearly double this rate, or $0.3939, and at worst, next year’s assessed value will remain at least 90 percent of this year’s. Given that worst-case scenario, the higher tax rate will raise $5.5 million.

By the way, despite anything the board was told, the referendum wording remains the same, namely that the board with referendum passage can impose a new tax rate up to $0.3939.

See the full article here: